Well we’ve been meaning to do an interview with the guys at Brackley Central since it opened in June, but everyone has been so busy. Anyway, today we met manager Aimée Armstrong who told us all about the rather cool artisan café located in the iconic old railway station at the top of the town.
The business is owned by three partners Jason, Ray and Martyn who hail from and have a number of separate business interests in the Maidenhead area.
Brackley Central is their first joint venture and to date it has been a great success.
Converting the premises from its previous use as an ATS Tyre and Exhaust replacement centre was a daunting task requiring considerable investment, but the results are tremendous. The guys have taken the heritage of the building and brought it bang up to date with some cool styling, furnishings and decoration (we loved the idea of using Farrow & Ball dark grey ‘Railings’ paint) with loads of old railway features, accessories and images. And of course, the name itself…
I really like the whole effect. There’s a bit of chic about the place with several side rooms, neatly branded the VIP lounge or waiting rooms, that people can use for quiet meetings. Every room was occupied when we visited. There’s a cool jazzy buzz about the place – yes there are ladies who lunch and, guys out with their dogs and children there too but it can be a place where you can take clients too for an informal business chat. Indeed, when I was there several guys popped in from nearby Racing Point F1 team with some guests and they looked completely at ease.
People from the surrounding business park are very loyal clients said Aimée as are many people from the new estates development who more easily pop down to us than into town. But we also get lots of clients who are townsfolk but who just like the change of scenery that we offer.
I’ll return to this theme in a second but first I wanted to know more about Aimée and her role. She‘s a local lady with a background in events catering with training as a hotel chef and sommelier. She’s also a mum of two young boys, 5 and 2, so life is very busy. Obviously, the owners, having business interests elsewhere, couldn’t be on site all the time and needed a manager to run the operation for them. Aimée originally interviewed for a job as a barista in the café but her experience and passion for the business shone through, seemingly, and she landed the role as manager and has loved every minute of it so far.
Given that Brackley is already well-served by cafes and eateries, I asked Aimée what makes Brackley Central different, especially as it’s more than a decent walk outside the town centre. ‘It‘s distinctive for a number of reasons’, she explained. ‘As well as the unique setting, our food choice is first class – we offer a choice of over 20 types of cake for example and we have vegan and gluten free options. All of our bread and cookie products are freshly baked and prepared each morning. A new chef has been appointed and will be starting shortly and her role will be to develop the food range even further. So, we shall be offering a new hot-cooked breakfast and lunch range, serving things like home-made pizzas, delicious soups etc. We have plans to open in the evenings possibly offering a dinner range and we are awaiting a positive outcome to our application for a drinks licence. In the meantime, we have secured short-term licences for a series of pop-up events and can host up to 10 of these each year’. Anything else? ‘Well we have a very close supply arrangement with local coffee importing company Beansworks and as well as using and offering their products exclusively we will be inviting them to do some tasting events that our clients can enjoy. Indeed, we have plans for a series of events that broadens the scope of our offering to the people of Brackley and beyond. We really want to make Brackley Central a community hub, almost like ‘café plus’ where folks can hire the facilities if they wish, host intimate weddings and get-togethers, have demonstration events, lap top meetings, antiques valuations, carol concerts etc. We also have parking for 20 vehicles or more, full and free wi-fi capability, charging points and some high-end catering machinery to help ensure our products taste first class every time. Our staff are well-trained and tend to be young and enthusiastic – several of them are about to head off travelling or to Uni and we intend to let them bring their experiences back to us in a variety of ways to keep that bond with the community ongoing.’
Wow was all I could say. I congratulated Aimée and owner Martyn who came over for a closing chat. That’s one heck of USP list. It’s clear the guys have significant growth plans in mind. There’s space downstairs (the former station platform) to develop and they are already investigating an off-site service menu. Martyn explained that their plan is to keep developing, keep improving and to keep responding to customer feedback and requests. ‘We’ve even sourced some more railway artefacts to add to the look and feel as people have been so generous in their praise of what we’ve delivered so far’.
It’s just the ticket.
More to follow about the history of the railway!!